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Food Allergies in Children

The Children's Mercy Food Allergy Center is designated as a National Center of Excellence and a Clinical Research Center of Distinction by the Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE) Clinical Network. We are dedicated to advancing research, educating families and elevating the quality of care for kids with food allergies.

About food allergies

As many as 1 in 13 children—that’s two in every classroom—are affected by food allergies, and the numbers continue to increase. In general, children with food allergies have extra-sensitive immune systems that react to harmless substances called allergens in certain foods and drinks. When the person eats an allergen, like a peanut or other triggering food, the body produces antibodies to the specific allergen, leading to an immune reaction.

Learn more about food allergies, including how to recognize and respond to an allergic reaction.

What causes food allergies

The marked increase in food allergies in recent years has led to a number of research studies to investigate the causes and develop new treatments. Current evidence suggests that allergies develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Food allergy is more common in people with other kinds of allergic reactions, such as eczema, seasonal allergies, or asthma. Having a close relative with an allergy also increases your risk.

Changes in the way we live and eat may also be affecting the prevalence of food allergies. The immune system is designed to attack potentially dangerous invaders, like viruses and bacteria. When an increasingly sterile environment leads to fewer actually dangerous things in our bodies, sometimes the immune system will attack harmless things—like food proteins—instead.



  • Food allergies
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)

Help your child learn more about food allergies with this fun, colorful activity booklet created by the Children’s Mercy Food Allergy team.


FARE is a national non-profit organization that provides research funding, educational resources, and support for people with food allergies. Helpful resources include an info packet for newly diagnosed families and a customizable Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan.


This Kansas City-based non-profit organization supports families with food allergies and celiac disease by providing safe, healthy gluten-free and allergy-friendly food to families in need.

Recent research encourages parents of children with a low to moderate risk for allergy to begin introducing peanut products in infancy. Read more about the recommendations and questions to ask your doctor.

What to expect at your appointment

Diagnosing food allergies begins with looking for consistent, reproducible symptoms after consuming a small amount of a particular food. If symptoms improve after eliminating the food from the diet and reoccur with reintroduction, an allergy is likely.

It’s very helpful to your allergist if you can keep a record of your child’s food reactions and bring it to your appointment. Photos or videos of any external symptoms, such as rash or hives, as well as written notes on what they ate and the timing and type of symptoms that occurred, help your care team have a better understanding of your child’s history with the suspected allergen.

Testing and oral food challenges

Your allergist may do skin or blood testing as well. We can do these tests either right in the clinic room or in our kid-friendly lab. Allergy testing may involve skin pricks to the back or a small needle poke, but our nurses and lab technicians are specially trained to help kids be as comfortable and calm as possible.

If test results are inconclusive, or your allergist suspects your child has outgrown a food allergy, the next step is an oral food challenge. During this process, your child will eat small amounts of the food over a period of time while the care team carefully monitors them for any signs of reaction. We do oral food challenges in our allergy clinic so that if at any point your child needs medical care, we can provide it immediately.

Learn more about oral food challenges.

Preparing for your visit

Before your appointment, please remember:

  • The typical first appointment lasts 1-2 hours. Bring some favorite toys, books or other activities to keep your child occupied during the visit.

  • Bring any previous lab work, as well as notes or photos of your child’s reactions to the suspected allergen(s).

  • If your child takes an antihistamine, have them stop seven days before their appointment. Antihistamine medications include:

    • Zyrtec (cetirizine)

    • Claritin (loratadine)

    • Allegra (fexofenadine)

    • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

    • Atarax (hydroxyzine)

    • Astepro, Astelin (azelastine)

    • Alaway, Zaditor (ketotifen)

    • Patanase, Pazeo, Pataday, Patanol (olopatadine)

    • Any medications with chlorpheniramine

    • Many common over the counter cold and cough medications

    • Antihistamine nasal sprays (Astelin, Patanase, Astepro, Dymista, etc.)

You do not need to stop inhaled asthma medications or other routine medications for other health conditions unless directed by your care team.

Next steps

Depending on your child’s unique situation, we may be able to provide a diagnosis after your first visit. Regardless, our goal is for you to leave your appointment feeling confident that you know the next steps and how to best care for your child. We will always provide as much education and explanation as we can to help you feel at ease.

Learn about navigating food allergies from diagnosis through adulthood.

Learn what to expect from a visit to our Food Allergy Clinic

Research in food allergies

Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is one of the most exciting new treatment options to come from food allergy research in recent years. This therapy involves regularly consuming small amounts of an allergen to help the body to become desensitized to it. It is not considered a cure, but rather a way to potentially protect children who are accidentally exposed to an allergen from having a severe reaction.

Children’s Mercy is one of a very few centers to offer OIT in a clinical setting. Currently, we offer OIT for peanut allergy at the Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas location, but we hope to expand to other allergens in the future.

Research and Clinical Trials

Children's Mercy engages in research that helps to identify and treat food allergies in children. If you are interested in participating in a research study, call (816) 960-8904

Food Allergy Patient Family Advisory Council

The Food Allergy Patient Family Advisory Council works in partnership with the Children’s Mercy Food Allergy Center staff members to advocate on behalf of parents and patients for the best quality of care and research.